“The World According to Abercrombie and Fitch”

I’m getting older. I realize that.

One way this point is driven home to me is by taking stock of the stores that I will or will not enter in the mall. As the years go by, stores on one list gradually move to the other. For example, years ago I used to frequent American Eagle. Now I can’t remember the last time I actually went into the store. I think it had something to do with the rise of what I will charitably describe as “fashionably wrinkled” shorts sporting a surplus of pockets.

Another clothing store that I haven’t set foot in for years is Abercrombie and Fitch. Though I think they’ve toned it down of late, one of the reasons for my self-imposed exile was that I could usually hear some sort of techno-dance beat about 100 feet from the store’s entrance. (Now back in the day, I might have been a slave to the funky beat, but let’s just say I’ve found increasing emancipation as my college fraternity days get farther into the rearview mirror.)

Actually, my concerns with popular clothing stores can run a little deeper than these things, with Abercrombie and Fitch being one of, if not the most alarming of the bunch. For that reason, I thought I’d provide a link to an interesting commentary by David John Seel, Jr., who takes a closer look at the retail giant. Here’s a provocative excerpt:

Abercrombie & Fitch is not about clothes. Or ultimately about fashion. Instead, A&F offers its buyers the experience of stepping into the fantasy world of adolescent dreams, unlimited popularity and carnal pleasures. Here the beautiful people belong.

I find Seel’s conclusions both challenging and largely persuasive in this particular case. And while that shouldn’t be extrapolated out into a sweeping and indiscriminate denouncing of retail clothing stores (yes, you’ll still see me at the mall), it does argue that we could all benefit from thinking a bit harder about what’s really going on when we–or our children–shop for those new jeans.

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